GAME NOTES: The 16th-ranked Duke Blue Devils continue their run through the ACC, with a Saturday afternoon clash with the Clemson Tigers at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils opened league play with a rare loss, falling at Notre Dame last weekend, 79-77. Duke righted the ship however on Tuesday with a 79-57 rout of Georgia Tech to even its league slate at 1-1 and move to 12-3 overall.
Brad Brownell's Tigers have played well for the most part this season and are 10-4 overall. The team opened its ACC schedule with a 62-60 win at Boston College last weekend, but came out flat at home on Thursday, falling to the Florida State Seminoles, 56-41. The loss at home was the first this season for Clemson (7-1).
Duke has dominated this series and leads by a count of 105-29 all-time. The Blue Devils have won five straight over the Tigers and 27 of the last 29 meetings, overall.
Playing their first game outside of the top-10 since 2007, the Blue Devils took out their frustrations on the Yellow Jackets, pulling away in the second half to earn the 22-point victory. Duke shot just 36 percent from the floor in the first half, but caught fire after the break, going 57.7 percent in the final 20 minutes to run away with the win. Rodney Hood scored 15 of his game- high 27 points in the second half. Four other Blue Devils finished in double figures, as Quinn Cook (13 pts), Jabari Parker (12 pts), Rasheed Sulaimon (11 pts) and Andre Dawkins (10 pts) all made significant contributions in the scoring column.
Despite being just a freshman, the 6-foot-9 Parker is a serious candidate for National Player of the Year, as he leads Duke in both scoring (19.8 ppg) and rebounding (7.6 rpg), with the ability to score both inside and out (.502 shooting, .412 from behind the arc). Hood can fill up the basket as well at a hefty 18.5 ppg, doing so with great accuracy as well (.529 overall, .470 from 3-point range). Cook has evolved into one of the nation's premier point guards, with the ability to both score (14.0 ppg) and distribute (6.1 apg) at a high rate. Duke is currently boasting of a +15.5 scoring margin, with the ability to put points on the scoreboard in bunches (84.3 ppg).
The Tigers lack the offensive arsenal to win shootouts this season at a modest 66.6 ppg. Where the team has thrived however, is on the defensive end, leading the ACC in scoring defense (53.5 ppg), field-goal percentage defense (.360) and 3-point defense (.238), while ranking second in blocked shots (92). While the scoring pool isn't very deep for Clemson, the team does lead the ACC in free-throw percentage (.775). Forward K.J. McDaniels leads the team in both scoring (16.5 ppg) and rebounding (6.9 rpg). Rod Hall (10.4 ppg) is the only other player currently averaging double digits, although fellow guard Jordan Roper (9.8 ppg) isn't far off the mark.
Clemson committed a season-high 18 turnovers and when coupled with a mere .300 shooting effort, was simply too much to overcome in an ugly loss to Florida State. McDaniels led the team offensively with 14 points, but no other Tiger managed more than six points. Florida State dominated Clemson down low, outscoring the Tigers 44-16 in the paint, while also turning those 18 Clemson miscues into 25 points.
The Tigers will try to slow down the Blue Devils with their defensive tenacity, but Clemson simply lacks the weapons to keep up once Duke gets on a roll. One good run by the Blue Devils could be enough to put this game out of reach.
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